As other parts of the country are gearing up for the early beginnings of fall, California is settling in for an Indian Summer that will bring warm temperatures and sunshine all the way through November. It's my favorite time of year by far. For one thing, San Francisco is shrouded in fog during the "summer" months - it's just a sad fact of life here that my scarf gets more use in August than it does in December. So while others are beginning to feel those end-of-summer blues, I'm ready to celebrate the end of Fogust and to kiss June Gloom goodbye.
This salad is a celebration of summer flavors. Whether you're trying to savor these last few weeks of corn so sweet you can eat it raw, straight off the cob, or whether you're bringing home your first glut of ready-to-burst Early Girl tomatoes, this is an absolute must-try picnic salad that will complement grilled flank steak like a dream but that is also substantial enough to be a hearty main course.
The key with a simple salad like this one is the freshness and quality of the ingredients. Ripe summer tomatoes and fresh corn are a must. And as for the chickpeas, I would imagine that canned could work, but I can't promise that the final product will be the same. Don't forget that Mady and I are beaniacs and NOTHING BEATS A BIG 'OLE POT OF FRESH BEANS. Chickpeas/garbanzo beans have a PLETHORA of uses so you really have no excuse here. Blend them with some tahini for a fresh hummus or bake them in the oven with a healthy coating of spices. When you bake cooked chickpeas, which is what we do here for this salad, they turn crunchy like nuts. SO. DELICIOUS.
The chickpeas really take this salad to the next level. Some of them soak up the cilantro-lime juice, losing their crunch a little bit and adding a really great texture and chew to the salad, while others, sprinkled over the salad just before serving, stay delightfully crisp and crunchy.
The fennel really brightens the flavors here and works nicely with the sweetness of the corn and tomatoes. A mandolin works great for getting really thin slices of fennel, but a sharp knife will also work if you don't have a mandolin.
SUMMER SALAD WITH SPICED CHICKPEAS, CHARRED CORN, TOMATOES, AND FENNEL
- 3 ears of corn
- 2 heads of fennel
- 6 ripe tomatoes cut into small slices, or 1 pint cherry tomatoes cut in half
- 2 cups cooked chickpeas
- 1/3 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice
- olive oil
- 1 big handful cilantro, chopped
- ground cumin
- ground coriander
- ground chile pepper
- salt and pepper
Slice the fennel into very thin slices using a mandolin or sharp knife. Place the sliced fennel into a shallow rimmed dish or bowl and pour the lime juice and 1/3 cup olive oil over the fennel. Let sit for 20-30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and put the chickpeas on the foiled baking sheet. Drizzle the chickpeas with olive oil and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon cumin, 2 teaspoons coriander, and 2 teaspoons chile pepper. Toss the chickpeas in the pan to evenly coat them with the spices. Bake the chickpeas for 12-18 minutes, until they obtain the desired crunchiness. When done, place the chickpeas in a bowl and set aside, leaving the foil on the baking sheet.
Set the oven to broil, shuck the corn and cut the kernels from the cob, and place the kernels on the foiled baking sheet. Add another light drizzle of olive oil and another sprinkling of cumin, coriander, and chili pepper (about 1 teaspoon each). Place the corn in the oven, a few inches from the broiler. Broil until the corn starts to char in a few places, 4-5 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine the charred corn, sliced tomatoes, about 3/4 of the baked chickpeas, and the fennel slices, reserving some of the juice ( you may or may not want to add all of it later). Add the cilantro and a healthy dose of salt and pepper. Toss everything together and taste for seasonings, adding more of the lime juice/olive oil if needed.
Top each serving with some of the reserved chickpeas.